Thinking Outside the Lunchbox
Want to save both time and money? Use last night's leftovers to build your child's school lunch sandwich. With a little finesse, they'll never notice it's a rerun. Dice a boneless chicken breast and mix it with corn and canned black beans (rinsed and drained) and roll up into a tortilla, or use the meatballs from last night's spaghetti to create a mini-meatball sub.
Your child's lunch doesn't have to revolve around a sandwich. At least once a week, try replacing the sandwich with something a bit unexpected, but equally satisfying:
- Pack a Thermos of homemade vegetable soup, made with pasta in fun shapes and a pack of crackers;
- Hummus or vegetable puree (roasted pepper, for instance) with fresh vegetables and pita triangles;
- A smorgasbord of cheese cubes, grapes, crackers, sliced apples, pears and peanut butter-and-cracker "sandwiches";
- A slice of homemade pizza or bagel pizza cut into small pieces; or
- Rollups made with lean, low-sodium sliced turkey, ham or chicken rolled with cheese (like a wrap, but minus the bread).
Lunch Accompaniments and Fun Sides
Your child's outside-the-lunchbox midday meal isn't complete without a side or two. But instead of throwing in an apple, a juice box that's loaded with sugar and a baggie of processed cookies or crackers, choose side items that are more natural and are fun to eat:
- Homemade trail mix (cashews, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, granola, etc.);
- Frozen grapes;
- Carrot sticks, grape tomatoes and sliced bell peppers with a small container of light ranch dip or cottage cheese;
- Lightly salted unshelled edamame (or soy beans, found in the frozen vegetable section). Kids have fun "popping" the soy beans out of their pods;
- Celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins, otherwise known as "ants on a log";
- Sliced and diced fresh fruit with homemade fruit dip or vanilla yogurt; and
- Cheesy popcorn (mix shredded cheese with warm microwave popcorn).